[Note to readers: Via Meadia usually tries to post an update on religious persecution every Sunday; this holiday weekend with the team scattered to the four winds (and WRM stuck without internet access in the medieval Hilton Hotel at Heathrow Airport), Monday morning was the best we could do.]“The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.” Lord Acton’s maxim casts a dim view on countries where minority religious groups are subject to brutality and persecution tacitly encouraged or, often enough, explicitly prescribed by law. This week’s spotlight is on adherents to the Ahmadiya faith, who suffer bitter persecution because many Muslims view them as heretical. Pakistan, home of the world’s largest Ahmadi community, has historically been the epicenter of anti-Ahmadiya violence. The past month, however, has seen a rash of mob attacks in Indonesia (horrifying video) on the small Ahmadi community there – and the distressingly feeble reaction by the judiciary.The Ahmadiya religion is an offshoot of Islam practiced by several million people worldwide. It originated in British India in the late 19th century, and its members believe that the movement’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the Islamic Messiah (Mahdi) foretold by scripture and prophecy. After post-colonial partition in 1947, most Ahmadis ended up in the newly created state of Pakistan, with another sizeable group across the border in India. Facing persecution for what other Muslims see as their quirky beliefs, many Pakistani Ahmadis have migrated to safer places like the United States or Great Britain. Meanwhile, Ahmadi missionaries have won a not insignificant number of converts around the world, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. Like some other small and tight-knit religious groups, they often excel in business and are generally prosperous and well-educated.The few million Ahmadis in Pakistan have long faced hostility, especially under the Muslim fundamentalist revival that has been heavily influenced by wealthy hardliners from Saudi Arabia since the Islamist military dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. Under Haq, much Ahmadi worship was and still is criminalized, and Ahmadis are forbidden by law from calling themselves Muslims, calling their houses of worship “mosques,” and citing the Quran in public. To get a passport in Pakistan one must even sign a statement denigrating the founder of Ahmadiya.All this is somewhat par for the course in a deeply divided Pakistan that both combats extremist violence and intolerance, and exports it to neighboring Afghanistan and India. Perhaps more startling is the appearance of such anti-Ahmadi violence in ordinarily mild Indonesia. This is partly the result of a radicalization of Islam promoted by money and literature emanating from conservative oil rich monarchies in the Gulf in schools and mosques around the world. It also reflects the spread of “hot religion” in an uncertain world; when people confront the stresses and uncertainties of urban, modern life, over-simplified and violent forms of religion can grow in appeal. What happens in Indonesia is a warning sign for what could happen and is happening to other moderate Muslim populations throughout the world – Nigeria, Somalia, Bangladesh. Treatment of minority religious groups like the Ahmadiya, as well as Christians, Jews, Bahais, and other faiths, will be an important marker for the spread of this extremism.Religious freedom — the freedom to practice and proclaim the faith (or absence of faith) of your choice, the freedom to teach it to your children, and the freedom to change your religion without interference by the state — is among the most basic of human rights. It is also one of the most frequently violated. The freedom to find God, to obey the dictates of conscience, to share the results of your spiritual search with those around you: these freedoms are essential for human dignity.